Skateboarders offer design advice
Those in attendance said it was a dream come true – the chance to design the skate park they had always wanted.
Such was the mood Tuesday night inside the Fairfield Middle School, where local skateboarders shared their thoughts on the proposed skate park in town. Thanks to a $160,000 gift from an anonymous donor, the city is planning to build an approximately 5,000-square foot skate park in O.B. Nelson Park. The contractor hired to build the park, Spohn Ranch of Los Angeles, organized a public forum Tuesday to receive input on the skate park’s design.
The meeting began with Spohn Ranch project manager Vince Onel explaining why he thought O.B. Nelson was the best place to build a skate park. He said the flat topography makes the site “shovel ready” with minimal landscaping. Furthermore, O.B. Nelson already has a parking lot, bathroom and a few trees that provide both shade and a sound buffer so the neighbors aren’t bothered too much. Onel proposed building the skate park about where the sand volleyball courts are now, while leaving intact the playground equipment to the east.
Onel asked the crowd what it liked and didn’t like about Fairfield’s skate park in Heritage Park. The skateboarders universally panned the existing skate park, saying it was too small for them to build up enough speed, and when they did build up speed for a trick they had to stop immediately to avoid hitting the curb on the outside of the rink. They said the park’s features are too simple and that it lacks elements common in other skate parks such as half- or quarter-pipes, stairs and bowls.
14-year-old Michael Flournoy was the youngest member in attendance and said he had started skating two or three months ago. He said he would like to see more changes in elevation in the new skate park, which is something the current skate park doesn’t have. Flournoy has skated at the Oskaloosa Skate Park, which was also designed by Spohn Ranch.
“I like that Oskaloosa’s skate park has a lot of rails and transitions, and it has stairs,” he said. “It’s boring when you can’t jump off of things.”
Flournoy said he has several classmates who would use the proposed skate park if it were built.
Tyler Nelson, 17, echoed others who said the current skate park is too small and that there aren’t enough things to jump off. He would like to see a bowl and a quarter-pipe in a new skate park. He’s been skatboarding for a few years and spends most of his time skating on the streets in town, although he mentioned that many roads are too bumpy for good skating.
Ike Winkler said the current skate park had wooden ramps when it was built about 13 years ago, but in a matter of five or six years they had rotted to the point they had to be removed.
“We’d like to see a skate park that pushes the limits for people who are already skateboarding, and that has enough features so that people who are learning to skateboard are not intimidated,” he said.
During his opening remarks, Onel gave a brief history of skateboarding and skate parks. The first skate parks were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Skateboarding experienced a surge in popularity in 1995 when ESPN hosted the first “X Games” featuring extreme sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding and motocross. Winkler said he and many of his friends became skateboarders shortly after this time.
Winkler said most of the skateboarders he sees at the current skate park are beginners or intermediates. However, he said that might change with a new and improved facility for them to practice in.
“Sometimes it’s not the skateboarders who create the park, but the park that creates the skateboarders,” he said.
He said one issue he’d like to see addressed is how young people who can’t drive are going to get to the park. Winkler, who enjoys skateboarding as a means of transportation, said police have stopped him when he’s skateboarded through town.
“I get pulled over on the sidewalk and they say move to the street. I get pulled over on the street and they say move to the sidewalk,” he said. “I think they should treat a skateboarder like a biker.”
Wayne Ades said the creation of a new skate park should coincide with a push to “decriminalize” skateboarding in the public eye.
“We have a lot of kids who are interested in it, and they’re not delinquents,” he said. “This is a fun thing that people do.”